Human rights lawyers slam Mahoso

HARARE - Zimbabwe's media hangman Tafataona Mahoso has drawn the ire of human rights lawyers over weekend claims that certain members of the Law Society of Zimbabwe are attempting to bring colonial rule back to Zimbabwe.
In an article replete with his usual drivel and conspiracy theories that app

eared in the last issue of the state-owned Sunday Mail newspaper, Mahoso, who is also the chairman of the government-appointed Media and Information Commission, asserts that the LSZ is little more than a puppet of Western organisations with an agenda to return Zimbabwe to the days of colonial rule.
As part of his argument he derides the LSZ’s statement condemning the 2005 parliamentary elections as being “prejudicial and prejudiced.”
Mahoso, who has presided over the closure of a record four newspapers in as many years, infers that the LSZ will be subject to government action if it continues to work in opposition to the policies of President Robert Mugabe’s government.
The International Bar Association’s (IBA) Human Rights Institute said it was “deeply concerned” by the “virulent and unjust criticism” of the LSZ.
Justice Richard Goldstone, Co-Chair IBA Human Rights Institute, and retired South African Constitutional Court Judge told The Zimbabwean: “The Law Society of Zimbabwe is a democratic and independent institution performing a very necessary role in a particularly difficult period in Zimbabwe’s history,” Justice Goldstone said. “The LSZ should be completely separate from the Executive, accountable to the law, and above all else to the nation’s Constitution.
“For a law society to face criticism from a government-appointed official for carrying out this essential role in this environment carries all the outcomes of a threat.”
Award winning human rights lawyer Arnold Tsunga, who is also the LSZ’s executive director said he was shocked that a high-ranking appointee of the Zimbabwean government can have the temerity to defame a law society, which in essence is an independent organization created by Zimbabwean statute to regulate the legal profession.
“The legal profession has largely been standing in between the unbridled power of the state and the people of Zimbabwe and offering a safety net to human rights defenders facing persecution,” Tsunga said. “It therefore comes as little surprise that the state is now angling itself for an attack on the independence and self regulation of the legal profession in Zimbabwe.”
Tsunga said he was concerned that the statement by Mahoso signalled an imminent legal threat to the existence and independence of the Law Society itself.
Mark Ellis, IBA Executive Director said: “It is unacceptable that the Law Society of Zimbabwe should be subjected to vilification of this type. The criticisms levelled against LSZ, by Tafataona Mahoso, displays both a level of ignorance as regards the role of a law society, and a somewhat selective and limited understanding of matters of law.”
Zimbabwe Lawyers of Human Rights in a press statement said it was clear from Mahoso’s article that he had a rudimentary understanding of the functions and relevance of the LSZ.
“The LSZ is an autonomous body,” the statement said. “It is not an extension of the executive and owes no allegiance, unlike Mahoso in his regulation of the media, to the executive. A body like the LSZ should be a model for media practitioners and ZLHR has no doubt that given the choice on how to self-regulate in the media, people like Mahoso would be part of a tiny and insignificant minority.”
Mahoso has closed down independent radio stations, television channels, and four newspapers in Zimbabwe. He has openly rejected efforts by Zimbabwean journalists to self-regulate. – Own correspondent

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